Welcome back to the Words of Radiance Reread on Tor.com! Last week, Alice got to play with all the pretty ponies. This week, having drawn the short straw, I only get to play with one of the pretty ponies. Luckily, Sureblood is the prettiest of them all, and he likes to have his ears scritched. Additional fun fact: Microsoft Word doesn’t want me to use the word “scritched.” I WILL BREAK ITS SPIRIT.
This reread will contain spoilers for The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. The index for this reread can be found here, and more Stormlight Archive goodies are indexed here. Click on through to join the discussion.
Chapter 26: The Feather
Point of View: Adolin
Setting: The Shattered Plains
Symbology: Duelist, Kalak, Paliah
IN WHICH Adolin and his strike team assist other Highprinces on a plateau run; he and his friend Jakamav launch a daring assault on a multi-tiered rock formation; Friendship (and unbelievably powerful magical weapons and armor) prove more than a match for the enemy Parshendi; Eshonai delivers a message asking for parley; a gemheart is lost, but at least there’s wine; Renarin freezes up during combat; Adolin asks his good friend Jakamav for advice on dueling; Jakamav provides advice on dueling, also women; Adolin wonders whether it wouldn’t just be better to let himself get arranged married; Jakamav proves to be a Grade A tool who sucks and is bad; a horsey prances; Adoliin talks to Renarin, who says that A) he didn’t have a fit and B) they don’t have much time.
Quote of the Week:
“Being seen with you isn’t good for one’s reputation these days, Adolin,” Jakamav said. “Your father and the king aren’t particularly popular.”
“It will all blow over.”
“I’m sure it will,” Jakamav said, “So let’s . . . wait until then, shall we?”
Adolin blinked, the words hitting him harder than any blow on the battlefield. “Sure,” Adolin forced himself to say.
“Good man.” Jakamav actually had the audacity to smile at him and lift his cup of wine.
Adolin set aside his own cup untouched and stalked off.
YOU. UTTER. DICK. I. HOPE. YOU. GET. PARALYZED. IN. A. DUEL.
— A rant by Carl
Commentary: This chapter is mostly dominated by a pretty sweet combat sequence that, nevertheless, I don’t have a ton to say about. I very much enjoyed the construction of the battlefield. The Alethi and the Parshendi are fighting over a chrysalis on the top of a three-tiered mountain that’s been bisected, somehow. The epilogue to this chapter takes the opportunity to point out that it wasn’t their gods who shattered the Shattered Plains, which is a clue for the readers to not dismiss information about that shattering. Adolin, who doesn’t have the opportunity to read the epilogues because he is both illiterate and fictional, immediately puts aside his passing thought that the three-step pyramid which even seems to have ramps might not be naturally occurring. Way to go, Adolin! You’re lucky you’re so pretty and good at fight!
Adolin’s assault plan is both cool and cinematic, but doesn’t so much have success in mind as camaraderie. He wants to lure Jakamav into fighting alongside him, forming a bond of friendship that will eventually tie the armies together. He and Dalinar are looking for emotional connections to unite Alethkar that don’t rely on loyalty, since they know none of the Highprinces care about that. And having the Shardbearers fighting alongside each other has good optics, makes for pretty good bonding stories, and certainly makes it seem like cooperation is happening. Unfortunately, as you can see in the quote of the week, Jakamav is a heartless toolbag, and he’s one of Adolin’s better friends. Friendship among the Alethi of Adolin’s generation is far more about being seen to be in a popular faction than actually creating bonds on which one can rely.
I really feel for Adolin here. He didn’t understand how little his friendships meant, or how quickly they would evaporate once he made himself politically unpopular. It doesn’t seem like he’s met any non-dumpster humans in his years among the nobility. It’s not fair to say he has no friends, though. He has his brother and his horse, both of whom have his back. Sureblood is prancing all over the place, happy not to have to share his attention with the other horses from last chapter.
Maybe Adolin can be friends with Eshonai! She wants to talk, she has some pretty sick armor, and he can almost tell what gender she is. That’s like… a few reasons. (No, I’m not going to ship them, settle down. If you want to ship them I won’t stop you, but you’ll have to put in the work yourself. I’m too invested in Shalladolin and/or Kalolin.)
Heraldic Symbolism: Kalak and Paliah! Kalak (Resolute, Builder) may represent Adolin’s steadfast efforts to build a unity between the Highprinces. Paliah (Learned, Giving) is surely here because she’s the patron of the Truthwatchers, which, SPOILERS, Renarin is going to join.
Ars Arcanum: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think we know at this stage in the book why Renarin froze up in this combat. Those who are actually reading along for the first time at our incredibly glacial pace, SPOILERS FOLLOW: Renarin must have been paralyzed by the screaming of his spren when he summoned his Blade. Binding a Blade requires holding onto it for hours and hours and hours, which must have been torturous. Other hints we get that Renarin has magical shit going on: He’s constantly talking about the Stormwatch as if he has extra perception, and he magically doesn’t need glasses anymore. It confuses me why Adolin would think Renarin is acting tough by not wearing glasses, since I’m pretty sure Shardplate is totally glasses-friendly.
Just Sayin’: “There are a lot of winds to ride out there, you know?” So sayeth Jerkamav, hammer-wielder and all-around nice guy, in a saying that is directly analogous to “there are plenty of fish in the sea,” with an extra emphasis on riding. Maybe the Windrunners were major players back when?
Shipwatch: Adolin is so excited about his causal with Shallan that he might actually be warming to the idea. It warms my heart how a political marriage is exactly the spark these two crazy kids need to get together without ever even having met.
That’s it for this week! Next week we travel into Shallan’s past, which has always been a barrel of laughs before. I can think of no reason why Chapter 27 would be an exception to that uninterrupted stream of good time party times.